Skip navigation

Center for Middle East Studies


Center for Middle East Studies

Islam, Liberalism and Tolerance

The attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish grocery on January 7, 2015 by Muslim extremists left 17 people dead. It also reignited smoldering tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims that have long plagued Europe and the West more broadly. If we take a longer view, the tragic events in Paris merely mark the most recent chapter in an ongoing European cultural conflict over questions concerning Muslim immigrants and their integration into Western society, the contrasts between traditional European-Christian and immigrant-Muslim social norms, and the appropriate limits of liberal toleration. 

These questions were brought to the fore in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and the attacks in London on July 7, 2005. They have continued to arise throughout the last decade both violently and non-violently: from the assassination of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh (2004) and the reactions against the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (2006), to the French legislative bans on wearing the hijab in public schools (2004) and niqab in any public space (2011). These events have led also to the rise of right wing anti-immigrant parities in Europe over the last thirteen years and they have exposed major rifts among multiple segments of European society.

On this page, CMES seeks to both inform and provoke our readers, to both document recent history and encourage the public to think critically about the issues from a range of perspectives. We have therefore provided a continually updated collection of what we consider to be the best research, writing, and thinking on both the recent attacks and the broader questions that emerge from this tragic event.



DU Faculty Panel
"The Charlie Hebdo Debate: Islam, Europe, Freedom of Expression, & the Antinomies of Liberalism"

Islam & western liberalism

"The Clash of Cultures, the Tension Within Liberalism, and the Proper Limits of Tolerance"
Tom Farer
Human Rights Quarterly

"A Letter Concerning Muslim Toleration"
Mustafa Akyol
The New York Times

"Piety or Rage? On the Charlie Hebdo Massacres"
Seyla Benhabib
The Hannah Arendt Center

"Moral Clarity in the Charlie Hebdo Debate"
Adam Shatz
London Review of Books

"In Remembering the Charlie Hebdo Attack We Must Not Forget the Responsibility that Goes with Free Speech"
Tariq Modood
European Politics & Policy blog, London School of Economics & Political Science

"On Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech & Relative Outrage"
Glen Greenwald
The Intercept

"The Abuse of Satire"
Garry Trudeau
The Atlantic

"Unmournable Bodies: It is Possible to Defend the Right to Obscene and Racist Speech Without Promoting or Sponsoring the Content of That Speech"
Teju Cole
The New Yorker

"Charlie Hebdo and the Twilight of Western Liberalism"
Abdullah Al-Arian
Al Jazeera English

"Mourning the Parisian 'Humorists' Yet Challenging the Hypocrisy of Western Media"
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Tikkun/Huffington Post

"Charlie Hebdo and the Limits of the Republic"
Arthur Asseraf

"France's False Choice: Can Liberal Societies Come to Terms with Religious Illiberalism?"
Shadi Hamid
The Atlantic

"Do Muslims Belong in the West? An Interview with Talal Asad"
Hasan Azad & Talal Asad

"Defying the Assassin's Veto"
Timothy Garton-Ash
The New York Review of Books

"The Red Flag and the Tricolore"
Alain Badiou

"France After Charlie Hebdo"
Boston Review Forum
Boston Review

"Big Question: Should the West Stop Blaming Itself for Islamist Terror Attacks?"
Prospect Team

"Six PEN Members Decline Gala after Award for Charlie Hebdo"
Jennifer Schuessler
The New York Times

"Writers Withdraw from PEN Gala to Protest Award to Charlie Hebdo"
Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept

"Read the Letters and Comments of PEN Writers Protesting the Charlie Hebdo Award"
The Intercept

"After the Paris Attacks: Responses in Canada, Europe and around the Globe"
Edward M. Lacobucci & Stephen J. Toope

questioning the narrative of Islamic religious violence

"Values and Violence: Thoughts on Charlie Hebdo"
The Editors
The Immanent Frame

"In Defense of Islam"
Ross Douthat
The New York Times

"Stop Calling for a Muslim Enlightenment"
Christopher de Bellaigue
The Guardian

"Fundamentalist Wrath"
Ron E. Hassner
The Monkey Cage (Washington Post)

"Islamic History is Full of Free Thinkers--But Recent Attempts to Suppress Critical Thought are Verging on the Absurd"
Ziauddin Sardar
The Independent

"Islam Does Not Forbid Images of the Prophet"
Christiane Gruber

"Satire in the Muslim World: A Centuries-Long Tradition"
Neda Ulaby
National Public Radio

"Charlie Hebdo: #WhoIsMuhammad Trending as Muslims Discuss What the Prophet Taught"
Kashmira Gander
The Independent

"Time to Lift the Veil on Saudi Arabia's Hijacking of Islam"
Fintan O'Toole
The Irish Times

"Not An Islam I Can Recognize"
Patt Morrison & Khaled Abou El Fadl
The Los Angeles Times

"Why We Hate Our Reflections: Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State"
Lorenzo Kamel

Islam, discrimination & radicalization  in the european context

"Jihadi John and London's Culture of Gang Violence"
Ismail Einashe

"The French Myth of Secularism"
Mayanthi Fernando
The Conversation

"Is the Charlie Hebdo Attack Really a Struggle over European Values?"
Myriam Francois-Cerrah
New Statesman

"The Republic of Islamophobia"
Jim Wolfreys
Hurst Publishers Blog

"The Dangerous 'Alliance' between Islamism and Islamophobia"
Atef Botros

"Charlie Hebdo Attack is Not About Islam—It’s Rooted in Generations of Violence, Hypocrisy and Greed"
Mark LeVine
Al Jazeera English

"France and Its Muslims"
Stéphanie Giry
Foreign Affairs

"The Algerian Legacy: How France Should Confront Its Past"
Jonathan Laurence
Foreign Affairs


"Charlie Hebdo: Paris Attack Brothers' Campaign of Terror Can be Traced Back to Algeria in 1954"
Robert Fisk
The Independent

"From Amateur to Ruthless Jihadist in France: Chérif and Saïd Kouachi’s Path to Paris Attack at Charlie Hebdo"
Rukmini Callimachi and Jim Yardley
The New York Times

"Jihadism Born in a Paris Park and Fueled in a Prison Yard"
Jim Yardley
The New York Times

"The French Intifada: How the Arab Banlieuses are Fighting the French State"
Andrew Hussey
The Guardian

"The Abdication of Moral Responsibility"
Kenneth Roth
Foreign Policy